Now That The Cyclone’s Settled, Do Stepoffs Really Count?
Of barrels and motors and man.
Did you know that a cyclone swell recently collided with Australia’s Gold Coast?
You may have read that a poor fella died swimming. Or that Jack Freestone was, by most accounts, the swell’s MVP. Or that formerly iconic San Diego B-Grade (C+?) professional surfer Scotty Hammonds is now one of your favorite documenters. Or that Jet Ski drivers are being fined by the Gold Coast Shire’s Royal Constable for being Jet Ski drivers.
That last bit incited some debate. Was everybody respecting etiquette? Are there too many unskilled Jet Ski cowboys in this big lonely world? Is it even legal for them to be out there? It warms my heart to see my anonymous brothers and sisters in the comment section ideologically jostling over what’s best for our beloved pastime and occasionally erupting into irrational tirades that take sharp, personal angles and could probably be traced by a Freudian line back some form of sexual frustration. However, a significant topic was left off the docket.
Perhaps the most important: Does step offs still count? Or should we view them with the same amused scorn as we would a whip at air?
Let’s get some facts straight.
You don’t need a good driver to succeed at step offs — you need a really fucking good driver. A really fucking good driver has an understanding of both the ocean and the machine so deep that it all becomes intuitive. The equation isn’t as simple motor = tube.
Beyond that, a ski isn’t going to give you the extra pump you need to evade a foamball or draw you a path to the light at the end of that tunnel. It won’t take your tube riding from Scotty Hammonds to Nathan Florence overnight. Once you’re in, it’s surfing. Fun, cruel, frustrating, ecstatic, sometimes impossible surfing. If a cheap, yet incredibly expensive, barrel is what you’re after, there’s a certain ranch in butt-fuck California I could recommend.
A proper step off requires an excess of skill. But a proper step off is still cheating.
It eliminates two of the most important aspects of surfing waves of consequence — especially in places where step offs are most common, like Kirra, Mainland Mexico, France, etc. Those two things are being in the right place and getting under the lip.
Being in the right place doesn’t have all that much to do with how well you can manuever a surfboard once your feet hit the deck, but it still matters. It’s still surfing.
Not having to make the drop, though — that’s what really makes it cheating. In the best step off clips you see, the surfer is always good enough to have been easily capable of paddling in.
(This Bruce Iron step-off at Pipe is still a thing of relaxed beauty)
But it’s not that they could have. It’s that they didn’t.
While I would never compare step offs to prostitution, they are similar from a user’s perspective. If you bought your way in instead of making it happen on your own, it doesn’t really count.
The truth about step offs is that, when done right, they are incredibly fun, they get you way more waves, they are the ideal option for a lot of scenarios and they do not do anything for you once you’re under that lip.
And while fun to watch and ride, they don’t fully count.
Just like hookers.
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